Best Travel Tripods Buying Guide | Travel Tripod Review

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If you think travel tripod is big & clumsy, a necessary evil that you’d much rather leave at home (And often do), then these carbon-fiber best travel tripods are just what the doctor ordered. We test 9 outfits to find the most travel-friendly kit.

Let’s be Honest About Best Travel Tripods

Best Travel Tripods Buying Guide
Travel Tripods

Many of us don’t carry a travel tripod with us, even when we know we probably should. Why? Well, most of the time they’re a bit of a pain in the backside. Not to mention the shoulders and back too. If this rings a bell and your tripod finds itself stuck at home rather than helping you capture great images, then maybe it’s time to think afresh and pick up a travel tripod.

Travellers are so-named after the first of their kind – the original Gitzo Traveller. They use a different design, they’re smaller and lighter, and they fold down into a compact package for transport. This is achieved by swinging the legs right up and back on themselves. Then the center-column pulls up, and the ball head nestles in the space between the upturned legs. This reduces the overall size by around 10-12cm (4-5in), often small enough to fit in a rucksack or suitcase.  In terms of performance, stability, and ease of handling, there are no downsides to this design. In fact, it’s so good, it’s being used for larger travel tripods too – like the Venturer and Gitzo GT 2545 reviewed in this test. There is one drawback though, and that’s the small space remaining between the upturned legs to accommodate the head. This rules out three-way heads and most of the larger ball heads too. That said, manufacturers are now producing ball heads with a narrow base, like the new Gitzos, which resolves the issue. Best travel tripods come as a kit complete with a Ballhead. Although they all use the universal 3/8in mounting screw, so this can be changed. A useful idea is to buy an extra center column and attach a different head so they can be swapped over according to purpose. You could use a geared head, or a gimbal for sport and wildlife. And yes, some of these larger travelers are well up to those kinds of tasks and more.

Manfrotto BeFree MKBFRC4-BH Travel Tripod

Manfrotto’s Befree certainly looks the part with its bold graphics and red accents. The specification is attractive too. Being the lightest on test at an amazing 1.1kg including head, the BeFree folds down to 40cm (MeFoto RoadTrip is 38cm). A few differences of note are the lever leg-locks that are a characteristic of Manfrotto, as opposed to twist-collars that seem to be favored by most other manufacturers these days. The Ballhead is different too, in that it features Manfrotto’s RC2 quick-release system instead of the Arca-Swiss type of the others. The Ballhead also has just one knob that locks all movements simultaneously, so there’s no independent panning facility. In performance terms, there is a downside to the very lightweight and compact size. The maximum standard height is lowest of the group and needs to be supplemented by the center column to reach a comfortable standing position. This further reduces stability, which is already in short supply. On the other hand, the little Ballhead performed really well. While it struggled with the maximum weight test, it handled more normal loads with ease and was very smooth, easy to adjust accurately, and didn’t shift position when locking down.

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Manfrotto BeFree MKBFRC4-BH Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$420 (Including Head)
Normal Height114cm
Extended Height133cm
Minimum Height28cm
Length Closed40cm
Leg Sections/Angles4/2 angles
Standard Leg Angle23°
Leg Diameters22, 19, 15, 12mm
Leg LocksLevers (Adjustable)
WeightLegs 0.93kg, Head 0.19kg
Weight Total1.12kg
HeadHeight 90mm, Ball 26mm
Load Rating (claimed)4kg
Monopod OptionNo
Shoulder BagIncluded

MeFoto Road Trip C1350Q1 Travel Tripod

It’s red, or it could be blue, green, purple gold, or any of twelve different color options, including black. Multi-colorways are a signature feature of MeFoto (made by Benro) alongside class-leading specifications for low weight and compact folded size. Prices are trimmed down too. At only 38cm folded length, the MeFoto Road Trip C1350Q1 is absolutely tiny and beats the Manfrotto BeFree by a couple of centimeters. Total weight is less than 1.4kg, a fraction heavier than the Manfrotto but lighter than anything else.  Yet remarkably, it’s far from being the shortest traveler and stands a comfortable 125cm tall (not including center-column or head) to put the camera at shoulder level. The shrinking magic is achieved by adding a fifth leg section that both reduces the folded length and increases the maximum height. It’s a popular trick, but stability is reduced by the additional leg joint, and when the extra section is added to the bottom of an already small tripod, it’s pencil-thin. And frankly, MeFoto has gone a step too far here with legs that are prone to both flex and resonating vibrations with anything but a light camera in still conditions. The Q1 head is mostly smooth and nice to use but isn’t the strongest or most precise with some slight play when loosened off.

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MeFoto Road Trip C1350Q1 Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$425 (Including Head)
Normal Height125cm
Extended Height147cm
Minimum Height31cm
Length Closed38cm
Leg Sections/Angles5/2 Angles
Standard Leg Angle21°
Leg Diameters25, 22, 18, 15, 12mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.06kg, Head 0.29kg
Weight Total1.4kg
HeadHeight 85mm, Ball 30mm
Load Rating (claimed)8kg
Monopod OptionYes, Length 63-153cm
Shoulder BagIncluded

SunwayFoto Versa T1C40T Travel Tripod

Another new tripod brand from Camera Gear UK, SunwayFoto is well respected for its high-quality range of ball heads and Arca-Swiss compatible accessories. Another, the larger SunwayFoto tripod will be featured in next month’s review. The build quality is immediately obvious. It’s not quite on a par with Gitzo, but it’s of that order – and at half the price. When the SunwayFoto is compared to other brands, of similar size, specification, and cost, then it comes out on top (though there’s no separate monopod feature). The Versa T1C40T sits towards the smaller and lighter end of the traveler tripods sector. In this area concessions to height and strength are inevitably made with narrower gauge tubing and smaller leg locks. As a result, flexing under load is inevitable, though anything up to a 70-200mm zoom should be fine if it’s tall enough for you. That’s the trade-off for a weight of only 1.5kg, and a folded length of 45cm.

The FB-36II head is beautifully engineered. It needs a good half turn to lock solidly, though had no trouble in our weight test, and the action is smooth with only the slightest hint of positional shift on locking-down. The friction adjuster was too deeply recessed and a little awkward but worked well.

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SunwayFoto Versa T1C40T Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$480 (Including Head)
Normal Height114cm
Extended Height140cm
Minimum Height35cm
Length Closed53cm
Leg Sections/Angles4/3 Angles
Standard Leg Angle25°
Leg Diameters24, 20, 16, 12mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.16kg, Head 0.33kg
Weight Total1.5kg
HeadHeight 84mm, Ball 36mm
Load Rating (claimed)Legs 6kg, Head 18kg
Monopod OptionNo
Shoulder BagIncluded

MeFoto GlobeTrotter C2350Q2T Travel Tripod

MeFoto IS A sub-brand of Benro, identified by anodized highlights in a choice of colors. Specifications are closely related to their Benro cousins, such as this model that’s very similar to the Benro Travel Angel FTA29CV1, including the monopod option. Some differences are cosmetic; others run a little deeper, though MeFoto always wins on price. Apart from the silver anodized parts, the most visible difference between this GlobeTrotter and the Travel Angel is the pattern of the carbon fiber weave and the design of the twist-collar leg locks. The GlobeTrotters have a smoother finish and are slightly harder to grip, but it’s a small thing. The GlobeTrotter is also a few grams lighter, and this combination of factors suggests that maybe the construction of the legs is different. The stability tests showed the GlobeTrotter to be fractionally less solid, but in the real world the difference isn’t sufficient to notice and the GlobeTrotter gave a good account of itself. It is all the more impressive considering it has five sections, and that is the key to both a good working height and very compact closed dimensions. The Q2 head looks very like the Benro B1 and performed quite well with good friction control and accuracy. Unlike the B1 though, it wouldn’t hold the heaviest test weight.

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MeFoto GlobeTrotter C2350Q2T Trave Tripod Specification

Street Price$500 (Including Head)
Normal Height114cm
Extended Height154cm
Minimum Height32cm L
Length Closed41cm
Leg Sections/Angles5/ 2 Angles
Standard Leg Angle22°
Leg Diameters29, 25, 22, 18, 15mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.35kg, Head 0.35kg
Weight Total1.7kg
HeadHeight 90mm, Ball 36mm
Load Rating (claimed)12kg
Monopod OptionYes, length 67-161cm
Shoulder BagIncluded

Benro Travel Angel FTA18CV0 Travel Tripod

This is basically the same tripod as the Benro FGP 18C, but without the articulating center-column and with a smaller ball head. They both use the same diameter carbon fiber tubes with just a slight reduction in the lengths on this model. There’s a useful chunk chopped off the price too. In terms of size, weight, and cost, it’s a close match for the SunwayFoto Versa. At 121 cm (excluding the head) the Benro is a few centimeters taller, but it’s just at that useful point where it could make the difference between extending the center-column and not, so better for stability. The Benro is very well finished, with good quality twist-collar leg locks. They’re grippy and with a progressively firm action over about 1/4 turn – just right. There’s a monopod option, created by removing one leg, pulling the center-column out (it was a little sticky on our sample) and simply screwing them together. It’s a generous 151cm tall, but the flipside of this conversion trick is a bulky closed length of 71cm. Benro addresses that with a nice wooden knob that screws to the top, and you have a very handy trekking pole! The V0E ball head is a little disappointing. It struggled with the higher weight test and there was a slight positional shift on locking down.

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Benro Travel Angel FTA18CV0 Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$500 (Including Head)
Normal Height121cm
Extended Height145cm
Minimum Height15cm (With Column)
Length Closed44cm
Leg Sections/Angles4/3 Angles
Standard Leg Angle22°
Leg Diameters25, 22, 18, 15mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.18kg, Head 0.33kg
Weight Total1.5kg
HeadHeight 89mm, Ball 30mm
Load Rating (claimed)8kg
Monopod OptionYes, length 77-151cm
Shoulder BagIncluded

Benro Travel Angel FTA28CV1 Travel Tripod

The expansive Benro range offers more options in design styles than just about any other by mixing and matching common components. For example, take the Benro FTA18CV0 reviewed above.Swap to a tilting center-column and you have the FGP 18C. Alternatively, add an extra top leg section to create this FTA28CV1, which is 11cm taller yet has a closed length actually 1cm shorter. Other features are the same as the smaller version, including the monopod conversion and a wooden knob to create a trekking pole. This is a very attractive specification, bringing the height up to a level that will suit many more people by eliminating stooping. Plus there’s a welcome head upgrade, and the closed length remains very compact. There is a downside to simply adding more leg sections as a lot of the flex is in the joints, though Benro’s twist-locks are good. And by adding a fat extra leg section to the top rather than a spindly one at the bottom, rigidity is maintained. There is a penalty though – the weight goes up by 300g to 1.8kg (including head), and at $640 it costs $140 more. The V1E head shares a 36mm ball with the familiar Benro B1, and although they’re not the same, performance is very similar – see FGP 18C review.

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Benro Travel Angel FTA28CV1 Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$640 (Including Head)
Normal Height132cm
Extended Height155cm
Minimum Height17cm (With Column)
Length Closed43cm
Leg Sections/Angles5/3 Angles
Standard Leg Angle24°
Leg Diameters29, 25, 22, 18, 15mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.42kg, Head 0.4kg
Weight Total1.8kg
HeadHeight 94mm, Ball 36mm
Load Rating (claimed)10kg
Monopod OptionYes, Length 69-162cm
Shoulder BagIncluded

Benro GoPlus Travel FGP18C Travel Tripod

Lots to like here. In addition to the light and compact traveler design, there’s a monopod conversion option. And also an articulating center-column mechanism. Just loosen the locks, slide it up, and the center-column can be tilted at any angle from straight up to straight down, locked at any point along its 36cm length, or rotated 360°. Stability is inevitably reduced if a heavy camera is held out to one side, though it’s a well-implemented feature and perfect for macro. It’s easy to use and soundly engineered. To help steady things up when the balance is off-center, the footprint is wider with an increased 26° leg angle. Unlike some articulating mechanisms, this one doesn’t appear to compromise any other aspect of performance. The legs and collar-locks are well up to the task. They’re essentially the same as the Benro FTA18C and are covered in that review. The B-1 head is sold separately, and fits neatly into the small space between the legs when folded. This is a decent head. Not quite a match for the SunwayFoto FB-36II, but performing better here than in previous reviews. With less than half a turn of the main knob, it held the test weights fine, though for critical accuracy there was just a little positional shift on locking down.

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Benro GoPlus Travel FGP18C Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$500 Legs / $170 Head
Normal Height126cm
Extended Height154cm
Minimum HeightZero (Tilting Column)
Length Closed46cm
Leg Sections/Angles4/3 Angles
Standard Leg Angle26°
Leg Diameters25, 22, 18, 15mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.35kg, Head 0.36kg
Weight Total1.7kg
HeadHeight 90mm, Ball 36mm
Load Rating (claimed)Legs 10kg/ Head 14kg
Monopod OptionYes.
Shoulder BagIncluded

Gitzo GT1545T-82TQD Travel Tripod

Smaller of the two Gitzos, the 1545T sits in the middle of the four-strong Gitzo range. At first glance, it seems similar to the 2545T, with the same features (or lack of, see 2545 T review) and the overall height and folded length is very close. The difference is in the diameter of the tubing, and following on from that, the 1545 T’s total weight with its smaller head is reduced to 1.4kg vs 1.8kg. That’s a useful 22% weight saving, but it’s around this point where smaller travelers begin to show compromises in the quest for portability. The 1545 T’s leg sections are around 4mm smaller than its bigger sister, and there’s noticeably more flex in the slender bottom sections. It’s not serious, and this smaller Gitzo is still significantly more rigid than anything else close to its dimensions, helped by Gitzo’s strong collar-locks. It’s not ideal for lenses above 200mm, though the standard 130cm height, without center-column, is sufficient for all but the tallest users. Like the legs, the new Arca-Swiss compatible Gitzo 1382TQD head punches above its weight. It’s deceptively small and light but can tackle heavy loads with ease. And despite no friction adjustment (that’s nicely pre-set by Gitzo), accurate positioning is easy and positive, with only the slightest hint of positional shift on lock-down.

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Gitzo GT1545T-82TQD Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$1400 (Including Head).
Normal Height130cm
Extended Height153cm
Minimum Height23cm (Short Column)
Length Closed43cm
Leg Sections/Angles4/2 Angles
Standard Leg Angle25°
Leg Diameters25, 22, 18, 15mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.07kg, Head 0.35kg
Weight Total1.4kg
HeadHeight 100mm, Ball 32mm
Load Rating (claimed)10kg
Monopod OptionNo
Shoulder BagNo, Strap Supplied

Gitzo GT2545T-82QD Travel Tripod

It’s only $1500. Wow. But that’s Gitzo – always expensive, invariably excellent. What’s so good about it? There’s nothing very special about the spec, and in fact, it’s missing a couple of useful features. There are only two leg angles for example – just the slightly wider and potentially more stable 25° standard setting, and then pretty much flat to the floor when used with the mini center-column supplied. And there’s no monopod option. What you’re paying for is simply uncompromising mechanical design, best materials, and fine engineering. It’s built to last a lifetime. Not the biggest tripod here, nor the smallest or lightest. It falls towards the larger end of the traveler scale, and that means it’s tall enough for most people without extending the center-column, and it has fatter heavier duty carbon-fiber tubing. The result is a very high standard of performance, capable of handling all but the heaviest loads, yet it’s still light and compact for easy transport. The new 1382 QD head is excellent. With fully Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release (at last, thank you Gitzo!) it’s very strong indeed, locks firmly in just a 1/8th turn, and is rock solid at 1/4 turn. The fine friction control is particularly good, and there’s zero positional shift on locking down. It’s a perfect match.

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Gitzo GT2545T-82QD Travel Tripod Specification

Street Price$1500 (Including Head).
Normal Height129cm
Extended Height153cm
Minimum Height22cm (With Column)
Length Closed44cm
Leg Sections/Angles4/2 Angles
Standard Leg Angle28°
Leg Diameters29, 25, 22, 18mm
Leg LocksTwist-Collars
WeightLegs 1.35kg, Head 0.46kg
Weight Total1.8kg
HeadHeight 106mm, Ball 40mm
Load Rating (claimed)12kg
Monopod OptionNo
Shoulder BagNo, Strap Supplied

With a couple of exceptions, these are all good tripods. While they have the reverse-fold-up traveler design in common, there’s a wide range of different sizes and weights, with various features and prices. These best buy and highly rated recommendations are the models that particularly impressed with strong performance in these areas, with no serious weaknesses. Starting with the cheapest, the Venturer VT-1 and the Ballhead combo is an obvious candidate for Best Buy. It’s a high quality, medium tripod that can tackle most tasks. It folds down pretty small (though not as compact as some) and $270 is an unbelievably good price. There’s no catch. Most models fall into the $500-$700 range, with Benro and MeFoto presenting a smorgasbord of tasty options. The Benro GoPlus FGP 18C is worthy of a Best Buy award for its versatile and well-implemented center-column. The Benro FTA18CV0 also gains a Best Buy with a well-rounded performance – it features a stable support, a small folded size, and monopod option. The Benro FTA29CV1 and MeFoto C2350Q2 are excellent options too and deserve their Highly Rated awards. Newcomer SunwayFoto impressed with the sheer quality of the T1C40T tripod and its silky FB-36II head and it too earns a Highly Rated award. Gitzo always performs strongly, and the new ball heads are excellent, complete with Arca-Swiss compatible quick release platforms. Gitzo’s high prices rule out the best buy, but the larger GT2545, in particular, comes Highly Rated. It’s top quality and a highly competent all-around tripod, with superior performance uncompromised by the compact, Folded size. It could be the only tripod you ever need, an investment even. What better excuse to treat yourself!